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I just returned from Jamesport where I picked up horseshoeing supplies for my son, who is a farrier. In talking with the Amish shop owner, who is a farrier himself, I remarked that there were several pastures on which formerly I had seen draft horses now primarily stocked with buggy horses. He responded by telling me that he shoes fewer draft horses now, because a good number of Amish farmers have given up on farming and cash-renting out their fields to non-Amish. But growing vegetables for commercial sales is increasing.
Then he told me that the draft horse market in Kalona, Iowa, a few weeks ago brought astonishingly high prices even for untrained two and three old drafts, a lot of which were bought by Japanese buyers for the horse meat market over there.
If what he tells me is true, here are my comments :
Since the commodity prices are not going up anytime soon, cash rent prices will not stay at present levels either. One better be diversified as a farmer and not depend too much on one source of income. For a while even Amish farmers were lured into deserting their old diversified ways, but it is coming to bite them.
Farmers disappointed about corn prices below the break even point have decided countrywide to plant more soybeans( we know this because of USDA surveys!!). Obviously they told themselves, since we didn't make any money with corn, let's find out as quickly and collectively as we can, if we can't accomplish that same feat with soy beans. The wisdom behind that escapes me, but what do I know, I am not a heavy machinery operator which most "conventional" farmers have become.
High prices for heavy horse meat can be an incentive for breeding more of those horses again, but of course have the downside that they harm people who want to work horses on their farms but can't afford them now when they would need them. The affluent can thereby make living harder for the less affluent. That is nothing new in general and we know that anyway by another example since NAFTA had the same effect for Mexican farmers in a reverse situation (a million of them gave up) since they couldn't compete with cheaper American imports.

Ralph in N.E.Oh says 2018-02-19 17:50:05 (CST)

I think you have confirmed what we already know . A small farmer needs to stay grounded. He needs multiple income streams and he must keep an eye on his bottom line. Draft animals have the perfect place on small farms such as these. It is easy to be lured by peer pressure or some insane reason to go deep in debt. But small farmer's must resist the urge to become mono-croppers. That system doesn't work for anyone, but it is magnified by those of us with small holdings. Corn at $3.40 per bushel is much better raised and fed to an animal that will be marketed in a niche market....where the farmer cuts out most of the middlemen....bringing many more of the dollars back to the farm

1 year ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Will Beattie says 2018-02-19 18:53:01 (CST)

As a full time farmer for several years vs. my view of farming as a hobby initially- I think farming is in trouble across the board. I started trying to detail my opinion of the challenges and realized I was writing my first chapter of a book, so I stopped. It is even more disheartening to see it also effects the amish, who have made a lifestyle to avoid the influences of the modern world. I suppose no one is immune to changing times.

1 year ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

BrianL says 2018-02-20 08:22:16 (CST)

Part of what is afflicting Amish communities is that they are still reliant to some extent on mainstream markets to sell what they produce. (i.e. Corn, dairy, etc.) So while their required net income along with their expenses are substantially lower than non-Amish farmers making them slightly more immune to the effects of the collapse of "modern" farming, things have fallen so far and so fast that it is affecting them too.

Ralph is right in that diversification, along with producing value-added products, is the best chance for survival. This applies to both large and small farms. But as long as large farms are offered a financial safety net by the government, there's little motivation for them to change. While even diversification is no guarantee of security, it sure beats jumping aboard the sinking ship of commodity farming.

I do find it funny when these large farms scoff at us "hobby farms" (i.e. anyone not farming a few hundred acres with big machines) when I know we can make more on an acre of vegetables then they can on a hundred acres of corn. Of course, that means being outside the air conditioned cab of a big John Deere and doing real work. What's scary is, there are economists who, with a straight face, contend that America should import all of our food and leave the "mind-numbing labor" to some mysterious farmer in an under-developed country. They contend there are still too many farmers in America. I contend there are too many economists.

As for the Japanese buyers purchasing young healthy drafts to become horse meat, that's simply repugnant and indefensible.

1 year ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Klaus Karbaumer says 2018-02-20 09:33:10 (CST)

Brian, the big problem with economists is that they have a totally distorted view of human life: They think everything can be measured in money units, and whatever can't, isn't worth consideration. That's for example why they dismiss broken up communities as negligible costs for economic growth. They also have the somehow crazy assumption that humans in considering their needs and wants generally make rational decisions. Third, they believe ever since Adam Smith that individual striving for a better life will always as if guided by an 'invisible hand' make life better for all. I could give numerous example why that has been refuted by history.
The sad part of all that is, that our politicians largely have accepted that kind of world view. Capitalism itself is an expression of such a truncated view of life and the world. One of the many books I could recommend is the recently published " The Growth Delusion" by David Pilling, who is an associate editor of the' Financial Times'.
When economists start including life sciences and ethics in their musings we might be able to expect better results of their efforts.

1 year ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Klaus Karbaumer says 2018-02-20 11:06:41 (CST)

Brian, as to the Japanese buyers buying young healthy horses for meat, I share your aversion to that, although many do not see any difference to any other animals being slaughtered for that purpose. I also am asking myself if horse breeders have become so greedy or despondent about their own financial fate that they do not care what happens to the animals they raised. I know of people who would never agree to a sale of their foals for that purpose. One of the Percherons I own was sold to me with the stipulation that I would never re-sell him to pullers. So the previous owners cared about what I was going to do with him. You'd think that when sellers see where their horses go that they ostensibly raised with much passion
(as you always hear it from the breeding associations) they would withdraw that horse from the market. I have seen it done by some sellers back in Bavaria where we have more foal auctions than other horse auctions and certain purchasers were known for their horse market connections. However, if money prevails over all other considerations, that's what we get. In this respect the horse market is a micro-cosmos for our general economy: As long as some people make money, everything goes!

1 year ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Dusty 4R says 2018-02-20 13:09:21 (CST)

Wow, a lot going on here. I wouldn't get too excited about the Japanese buying horses for the meat market at astonishing high prices. I am skeptical of this because it makes no sense to pay this high price for meat, beef, good beef is cheaper. Also ask Will Beattie about this, the meat business is very hard. Everyone wants to pay a cheap price, not counting the export cost, quarantine, etc. also there is no reason for high priced horses, draft or otherwise. Actually I think the economy is not bad enough yet, look at how easy it is to GET things. Am I wrong? ( you see if things get bad enough people will change their ways, not happening yet).

On the farming side, does anyone watch the Farm Journal show on tv? Their only answer to low commodity prices is to plant more acres and get more yield, week after week the same answer. Unbelievable. Dig yourself a bigger hole?

1 year ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Klaus Karbaumer says 2018-02-21 09:28:31 (CST)

Yes, Dusty, I watch the Farm Journal weekly and like you I am stunned by how repetitive they are in their suggestions. I wrote in twice and once was even honored with a public answer by their commentator. When one read between the lines, his answer to my inquiry, why they almost exclusively were dealing with commodity growers' woes, pointed to their geographic location and their advertisers . Some other time I made them aware of the Horse Progress Days , but of course they never followed up on that. I don't think they take anything seriously that doesn't deal with the most modern computerized technology. Small farmers are not on their horizon. Instead they encourage farmers to dig themselves deeper and deeper into a hole. Of course they don't see it that way. Their hope lies primarily in the expansion of international markets and the next invention in technology, chemistry and improved GMO.

1 year ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

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